So, for the next few days y’all have a treat from Laura Boland, a fellow Goldsmitharian. Not only is she Cilla Black’s personal assistant, but, if you ask her, she’l show you how she transforms into a platypus by nightfall ( I’m just kidding) SO please wellllcome her to the flooooooor….
When was the last time you listened to someone, truly listened to every word they said? It requires every ounce of your concentration to fully listen because all distracting thoughts, desires and prejudices must be put on hold as we extend ourselves to the speaker. So often we come to God expecting Him to speak, and yet we are unwilling to put in the effort required to listen. I am as guilty of this as the next person, but I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learnt along the way about my tendency toward selective hearing.
Selective hearing is the act of hearing only what you want to hear, or hearing through your own way of thinking.
Wow, pretty challenging. I’m great at hearing from God when He tells me that I can hop on a plane to the other side of the world, or that the pigeon on my windowsill is a sign that I should quit my awful job. (Don’t tell me you haven’t done the same!) They say we believe anything we’re told, as long as it’s a compliment. But when God tells me to give away that last £10, or quit that bad habit I cling on to like an old friend, I assume I must not have heard Him quite right. ‘It’s just my overly-guilty conscience, grace not works’ I tell myself.
But sometimes God tells us things that make us squirm a little bit. As well as speaking words of comfort and encouragement, he challenges and convicts us. This is always from a place of fatherly love and care. (Have a look at Romans 8:28-29 & Hebrews 12:5-11) It is worth saying here that there is a difference between conviction and condemnation. Conviction pulls us up to a better way of living, whereas condemnation loads us up with guilt and pushes us down. God will never speak words of condemnation to us (see Romans 8:1), but the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, in order to free us from it. (John 16:8)
If we only listen to God when it’s comfortable, we miss out on a whole lot of good stuff and get a skewed perspective of who He is and what He wants for our lives.
Similarly, hearing God only through our way of thinking is like standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon with a balaclava on. (Not recommended, its about 100 degrees and you will get sweaty). What I mean is that we miss out on God’s big picture. His thoughts are not our thoughts and to come to God with a preset agenda or shopping list is to underestimate the potential of his power. (Isaiah 55:8) Imagine approaching the God who created the universe, and presenting Him with a list of wishes like this:
“Dear God, I’d like a husband, two kids and a little house by the sea-near to church of course. We’ll be there every Sunday!”
We have already scripted our lives and although we pray about it day in, day out, we are not really willing to hear from God if His plan does not involve that perfect Cath Kidston house. We have our eyes wide open to any sign that suggests God’s blessing on our plans, clinging on to them for dear life. I am not trying to belittle our plans for domestic bliss as this can apply elsewhere (easy target), but they are just that: OUR PLANS. If we lose the agenda, and come to God with willing hearts and ears fully open we get to hear HIS PLANS. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) They will surpass our expectations!
As we submit ourselves to God’s perfect plans and are fully open to hearing from Him, He places Godly desires in our hearts, which we can expect Him to fulfill! (Psalm 37:4) You never know, these perfect plans may include the bunting you always imagined above the fireplace.
In his grace and mercy, God meets us more than halfway and speaks to us in the place we are at. But as we have discovered, no limitation of ours will ever diminish God’s limitless power to be heard! So, in the next post I am going to explore some practical ways we can place ourselves in a position to hear from God in new ways.
But, for now: I’d love to hear how God has blown your expectations when you’ve allowed Him to speak without censorship…
(If you want to read more, I would recommend “Surprised by the Voice of God” by Jack Deere. If you’re at Goldsmiths you can borrow my copy!)